Q&A: Mixing Business With Pleasure

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Rainbow Tourism Group is the one of the largest hospitality groups in Zimbabwe. It has operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique, including its flagship Rainbow Towers Hotel & Conference Centre in Harare and the A’Zambezi River Lodge. Group CEO Tendai Madziwanyika took time out from a busy schedule to answer a few Business Traveller Africa questions.

Q: Your Beitbridge Hotel property is your latest opening. Why that location?
A:
Beitbridge is one of the major inland ports in Africa. It is the transient hub into southern Africa for countries like Zambia, Malawi, DRC and Zimbabwe. The hotel is located in the Matabeleland South region and is a hub for the Matabeleland North and South regions, including the south Limpopo province on the South African side. A lot of trade activity takes place in Beitbridge, so we believe the potential is great for hosting transient passengers. This also positions the hotel as a major conferencing venue in that region, with 136 rooms and the capacity to host up to 450 conference delegates.

Q: What else is in the pipeline for RTG? ?
A:
We’re not focusing on hotel openings at the moment, but rather on the various refurbishment programmes, as well as helping smaller players get back on the global scene through ‘RTG Virtual’. Through this, hospitality players who do not have the same marketing strengths to access global markets are identified and incorporated into the RTG Virtual programme. The players benefit from enhanced sales and marketing platforms that are offered by RTG for the benefit of RTG Virtual partner members. This includes inclusion into the RTG Virtual brochures that are distributed internationally.

Q: Tell us about those recent refurbishments?
A:
We refurbished and rebranded the A‘Zambezi River lodge in Victoria Falls to a 4-star resort facility in 2011. Thereafter, we commenced the $7.5 million refurbishment of Rainbow Towers, which is still currently underway. In the meantime, we have done soft refurbishment projects on the Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel, the Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel and the Kadoma Rainbow Hotel & Conference Centre.

Q: You have a combination of leisure and business travel-focused properties. Which of the two is your bread and butter? ?
A: The two complement each other in the sense that leisure is highly seasonal, with the high season for international business being between May and November. The foreign business component through our leisure hotels gives RTG an opportunity to earn foreign currency. The city hotels that range from three stars to five stars experience constant business inflows throughout the year. Our resort hotels give us an opportunity to showcase Zimbabwean hospitality at its best in a leisure setting. There is a balanced contribution to total revenues between the city hotels and the resort hotels.

Q: You have hotels in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. Any plans to add properties in other African countries?
A:
The group will seek to consolidate its operations in Zimbabwe where 90% of its hotels are located, and the goal is to dominate the Zimbabwean tourism market. We will seek to first consolidate our financial position before venturing to take on more room capacity.

Q: What are your thoughts on Zimbabwe as a business travel destination, as it currently stands?
A:
Zimbabwe is starting to attract foreign direct investment in various sectors, and opportunities are opening up as the economy starts to rebound. Due to the explosion of mineral production in the country, we are experiencing the emergence of other business nodes, although Harare and Bulawayo remain the gateway.

Q: Do you think the likes of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique are ‘untapped’ in terms of their MICE potential? ?
A: Yes. You may recall that Zimbabwe used to be the main conferencing hub for the SADC region back in the 1990s. International and regional conferences would be hosted either in Victoria Falls or in Harare. Imagine holding a conference in Victoria Falls, where the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly took place last year? You can truly mix business with pleasure.

Q: Are there any current trends in the African hotel industry that you’re picking up on?
A:
There has been a quest to offer international global standards in recent years. This phenomenon has resulted in most international brands venturing into franchise partnerships with local brands. The infusion of international hotel brand standards has resulted in an improvement in the product and services offered by local hotels. The global financial crisis had a negative impact on sub-Saharan Africa’s travel industry, but the recovery is now evident as hotel groups like Tsogo Sun, Protea, Carlson Rezidor, Starwood, IHG, and Hilton continue to source opportunities for expansion.